It is about time that EU businesses backed up their sustainability claims with facts – rather than the “green-washing” that currently prevails – according to the Irish Creamery Milk Suppliers’ Association (ICMSA).

The farm organisation was reacting to an EU report which shows that only one-third of businesses carried out any due diligence on the environmental and social impacts of their suppliers.

‘Window dressing’

ICMSA president Pat McCormack said the report shows that the largest corporations were “window-dressing” for public consumption and for PR purposes.

He added that they “demonstrate no commitment to real investigation into the environmental or social impact of the products they sell”.

While confident of Irish and EU food produce in terms of environmental and social sustainability, McCormack said it is clear that some large corporations are much more focused on sourcing cheap food imports produced much less sustainably than EU produce.

“What this report proves is that the corporations estimate – correctly in my view – that the EU and similar opinion-forming bodies are happy to place the environmental impact of food production at the farmer and primary-producer level while letting some of the biggest corporations on the planet off completely in terms of matching their public relations about environmental concerns with actual investment or supports.

‘Follow through’

“These corporations have actually worked out that they don’t need to follow through on their environmental concerns because the EU won’t be checking those,” McCormack said.

He added that the EU would be “too busy checking the minute details of what trees were planted on a 30ac farm in the west of Ireland”.

“The vital thing to grasp here is that this is an EU report and what it is saying to the EU is that their placing of environmental responsibility on the farmers has been welcomed by the corporations who are happy to admit that two-thirds of them as surveyed have no meaningful idea or record of the environmental impact of their supply-chain.

The reason why they don’t is because the EU doesn’t insist they do in the same way that it insists that Irish farmers know to the gram, to the day, to the litre, to the euro, the environmental impact his or her family farm has.

The president said that the report should lead to what he said was a “fundamental rethink” on where and how the EU placed the duty and cost of environmental and social impact.

“It can’t go on and must change, the environmental and social cost of food production must be built into the final consumer price of food,” McCormack concluded.